Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Many people forget that Moldova is part of the Old Continent and many people don’t even know it exists. It’s also one of those countries that everyone forgets it was a part of the Soviet Union. A fun fact is that Moldova is the second most alcohol-dependent country in the world, only falling behind Belarus. Moldova is a small, charming country covering only 33,800 square kilometers with 3.5 million residents and it’s the least visited country in Europe with only 121,000 visitors per year. That’s why I like to refer to Moldova as ‘The well-kept secret of Europe’. Here are some reasons why should you visit Moldova.
The wine… and 200 km long wine cellar
You probably didn’t know this but Moldova produces some of the finest wine in the world. Moldova is also a home to the world’s largest wine cellar in Mileștii Mici. There are nearly 2 million bottles in there and this fascinating underground cellar is over 200 km long! Moldovan wine is delicious and affordable: an amazing combination. A lot of Moldovans work in the wine industry with agriculture accounting for almost 40% of working people. Wine used to account for $162 million, or 20% of the total exports a few years ago. But after Russia banned Moldovan wine over a political dispute, the wine exports plummeted for over 50% since Russia was the largest importer of Moldovan wine. Finally, you won’t be surprised to hear that they have a day devoted to celebrating wine on the 17th of September.
Get the most out of your $
Moldova is indisputably the poorest country in Europe. This means everything is a lot cheaper than you can even imagine. The average salary in Moldova is 4,900 Moldovan Lei, which is equal to $250. Take a look at these to get an idea about the prices in Moldova. A one-way ticket for the tramway in the capital, Chișinău costs 7 cents. A monthly pass costs around $10 USD. 500 ml of beer will cost you 75 cents in the shop and $1.5 USD in the bar. There are hostels for $6 USD per night and hotels for $15 USD per night, which is really cheap for European standards.
Go back in time to Soviet Russia
Most Moldovans have a Romanian descent and these two languages are almost identical. However, the eastern part of Moldova is inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian speakers. So, after Moldova gained its independence from the Soviet Union and started developing closer ties to Romania and other western European countries, the people in the eastern part of Moldova unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1990. This region today is known as Transnistria and it’s even less developed than the rest of Moldova. Transnistria isn’t recognized as a country by any UN member but it’s still an autonomous region that looks an awful lot like Soviet Russia.
Moldova has some pretty bad roads but there are some really amazing landscapes you can see while traveling around. Moldova it’s a hilly country with most of its hills covered with lush green forests. The autumn is especially beautiful when the forests get golden-red. Moldova has an amazing nature and some stunning sceneries.
Hidden monasteries more than 2,000 years old
You might think Moldova is an Orthodox Christian country, like most of the countries in eastern Europe but that’s not the case. Most Moldovans are Orthodox Christian and they have some really amazing monasteries. Moldova is also home to one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. Orheiul Vechi is a breathtaking monastery which is more than 2,000 years old.
One of the greenest capital city in Europe
A lot of people will tell you that Chișinău is arguably the most boring capital city in Europe. I’m not one of those people. Chișinău is a vibrant city with cheerful people, beautiful girls, and cheap alcohol. The city has mainly Soviet architecture but a lot of parks and green surfaces that add to its unique charm. To add to that, the countryside surrounding the capital is gorgeous and the life in the villages is really interesting and something you won’t find anywhere else in Europe. In Moldova, there’s a saying that translates to “The one who failed to build a home, raise a son, and plant a tree has wasted his life”. That’s probably one reason why Moldova is so green.
The people and their almost extinct language
Moldovan people are really hospitable even though they might come across as cold in the beginning. But once you get to know some of them you’ll see that they are very cheerful and like to sing and dance much more than other Eastern European people. Moldovan girls are also one of the most beautiful girls in the world. However, there are some scams involving these beautiful girls, so be careful. Most Moldovans speak either Romanian or Russian but there’s also another regional language- Gagauz. It’s a Turkic language classified as critically endangered by UNESCO. And you might not think so but Moldovans have a very rich culture and some very interesting traditions, music and dances.
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The weirdest tourist attraction
As I said, Moldova is probably the poorest country in Europe. That’s why it comes as a surprise when you see a bunch of rich people flaunting their wealth in the town of Soroca. They have built some astonishing houses that look like replicas of some of the national landmarks, like Peter’s Basilica and the Bolshoi theatre. Today this town is commonly known as Gypsy Hill and is becoming a hot tourist attraction with tourists from around the world coming to admire this replica town.
In conclusion, Moldova seems like a country stuck in an eternal transition. The transition from communism to democracy certainly didn’t go as planned and Moldova is drowning in poverty and it’s the least visited country in Europe. Some travel bloggers even say that they regret ever visiting Moldova and describe the people as too rigid and robotic. Don’t expect people holding doors for you or saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. That’s the case in most former Soviet countries but once you make some Moldovan friends you’ll get to see how warm and hospitable people they truly are. I guess it’s just part of their culture to be more reserved. You need to understand their culture in order to fit in. And understanding different cultures is one of the main reasons for traveling.